Is it Wednesday Already?
This is going to be a long entry but there’s a lot to catch up on, it’s nice to have fallen into a rhythm and we’re really enjoying our time with Veronika.
We’re now on day five of the bonding period and I can hardly believe that this is the same child who walked into the director’s office on Saturday afternoon, board-stiff with fright. Despite being a tiny little thing, when we arrive at the orphanage for our twice-daily visits Veronika forces her way to the front of the group of children crowded at the gate to the older children’s playground (when she’s not being escorted to the gate, arm-in-arm, by a few of her companions while she beams with pride that it’s her turn to have a mama and papa coming to visit her). Once one of the caregivers opens the gate she comes running to us with her arms wide open. She isn’t satisfied until we’ve both picked her up and spent a few moments saying hello. We then retire to a bench in the courtyard of the orphanage for our visit, as the music room that families normally visit in is being renovated.
Veronika learned very quickly that the toys we’ve brought for her to play with that day are always in the same pocket of our knapsack, and as soon as I’ve taken it off my back and put it down she’s opening the zipper and rummaging around. There are a few toys the she really enjoys playing with, and they’re always in there as well as a few others that we rotate. Bubbles are a big hit, as are wind-up toys and big beads to string, but the big winners have been a beach ball that she brings to me to blow up at the start of every visit so we can play catch, and some colorful stacking blocks.
We try to include a couple of walks around the courtyard in every visit, but she only makes it about 1/3 of the way around before she wants to be picked up, and can sometimes become inconsolable if she’s not. I wonder if she worries that we’ll keep walking out the courtyard gate without her, but we walked further around the courtyard today with her walking next to us than in we did yesterday, and we’ll keep at it if it helps her learn to trust us.
We were surprised at another way it appeared that her fear of us not sticking around manifested itself yesterday. She’s been wearing the red sweatsuit you see in the pictures every day that we’ve seen her, and Allyson had brought along a pink sweatsuit for her to change into. When Allyson tried to take the red sweatshirt off to change her, however, she started pushing away and made a horribly fearful noise; that same look of fear we’d seen in the director’s office came over her face and didn’t go away until we zipped the red sweatshirt back up and gave her a hug. Our coordinator Khabiba explained that she was dressed in the red sweatsuit by the caregivers especially because she is being visited by her new mama and papa, and that she may have translated efforts to remove it as a signal that we didn’t want to be her parents. Khabiba suggested that we leave the new clothes with the caregivers to put on Veronika in the morning, so that they can explain to her that her mama and papa asked her to wear them when they visit. This seemed to work and she wore her new pink sweatsuit today, proudly.
It’s still remarkable to see her open up and personality unfold a little more with each visit. Tuesday afternoon’s visit was the first time she really started to use her voice, she’d been pretty silent with us before that visit. We’d heard her speaking with the other children in her group on Saturday but she’s never used more than a word or two at a time with us or any of the other adults. This seems to be pretty common among children in orphanages, who don’t start speaking until there’s a strong level of trust, and we were very pleased to hear her voice for this reason. Now that she’s started vocalizing to us, she doesn’t use many words but lots of baby talk and when she does use a word it’s often the right one. A car starts loudly in the next yard and she says “machina” (“car”), if she doesn’t like something she pushes it away and says “nyet,” when we leave her in the evening she says “paka” (“so long”).
One final observation, Allyson has been putting moisturizer on Veronika's hands at every visit, which she absolutely loves and is very soothing to her. She's almost dainty in the way she rolls her heavy sleeves up and when she's not laughing (pictured) her eyes are glued to Ally's face during this ritual and I hope it's something that Aidan will take over when we get home.
I’m going to post this and head to bed, more tomorrow…